Friday, 8 October 2010

Protest Meeting Outside The Centre

On 8 October, around 300 residents of Sands End, accompanied by the children of Langford Primary School and the Silk Street Band, gathered outside the Centre to protest against the Council's plans. Originally we had envisaged this as an action against the proposed closure of the Community Centre - but we soon realised that other groups should be involved, each fearing for the future of their own piece of the community.  We all felt that this Ward was somehow being singled out and picked on. Thus it became the "Save Sands End" protest.  Represented were groups defending the Centre, the Playhouse, the Adventure Project and Clancarty Lodge: each in imminent danger of becoming the victims of "slash and burn".

The children walked to the Centre, accompanied by the band, and all were gathered outside the Centre by 11.00 am.  The children then gave us all a beautiful rendition of "Sands End Centre's Falling Down" - which got an enormous cheer  - before the more important stuff got under way.

First up was an impassioned speech from the Action Group, presenting the argument against closing the Centre.  Those arguments are detailed all over this blog (see specifically our Response to the Council's consultation document in the 16 November entry and 'Important Links' tab above). However, if you would like to read the speech in full, you can:

Read the Action Group speech here

The microphone then passed to our MP, Mr Greg Hands.  Regrettably, Mr Hands did not show much support for keeping the Centre, merely echoing the Council's rather tired mantra of "services before bricks and mortar" whilst failing to understand, as does the Council, that it is these very bricks and mortar which house all the many and varied services which the community needs.  However Mr Hands did say that he would raise the matter with the Council.  He was then presented with the Petition.

At this point the Labour leader on the Council, Stephen Cowan, said a few encouraging words.  He reminded us that campaigns conducted with this level of vigour and dedication often bring results.

There then followed the ceremonial attaching of a new letter H, missing for so long from the front of the Centre.  This simple omission has been emblematic of the way the building has been regarded by the Council - for a few pennies this letter could have been replaced years ago.

After a few more words from the Action Group, the gathering dispersed.  Mr Hands then held a meeting with representatives of the Playhouse before being taken on a tour of the Centre.  Although it was obvious that he had never set foot in the building, we are sure that he was amazed by its size and the variety of different spaces which the Centre offers.  We believe he was particularly struck by the Sure Start complex occupying, as it does, most of the first floor.  How the Council thinks the entire Sure Start programme can be relocated to a space as small as the Playhouse is, once again, testament to its lack of research - the Playhouse is just not big enough and neither does it have enough separate rooms.

On 8 October the residents of Sands End gathered in their hundreds to demonstrate to the powers-that-be their opposition to the closure of their Community Centre.  They had organised a good-natured protest and taken time off work (and school) in order to be there.

Despite them being invited, not a single Conservative councillor bothered to show up.


The Fulham Society commented on the day as follows:

The Fulham Society News Letter, Number 83, October 2010

On Friday 8 October about 200 well-wishers gathered in Broughton Road to demonstrate, in a polite friendly manner, their support for The Sands End Community Centre.  The Police kindly kept the road free of cars while pupils from the nearby Langford Primary School sang their song and three bowler-hatted brass instrumentalists played stirring music.  The speakers included Councillor Stephen Cowan, Labour Leader on the Borough Council, and Mr Greg Hands, the local Member of Parliament.  The latter emphasized that the decision on the Centre's future rested with the Council, but that he, personally, hoped it would continue.  Everyone agreed that Local Government cuts were necessary but thought the Community Centre was too important, for the area, to be allowed to close.  It was announced that the Consultation Period had been extended until 10 November.


You can read the Fulham Chronicle article on the protest here:

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